Studying in a foreign country is an ambition that most students – or parents – hold dear, but the times, they are a-changing, and taking into consideration the economic situation, immigration laws and the standard of education available in western countries, many potential students and their parents have made practicality an important consideration.
One of the ways to overcome restraints – finances and opportunities – is to consider pursuing a course at one of the branch campuses of foreign universities in Malaysia.
Branch campuses are local chapters of overseas universities, providing similar programmes and academic opportunities as those available at their mother university. They do all these and more while offering students a cheaper alternative to getting a certificate from an internationally-renowned institution.
Enrolling at a branch campus could save students up to 30 per cent or even more on tuition fees compared to the main campus; this is not including living expenses and miscellaneous expenditure that students would face throughout their university years.
Among the branch campuses operating in Malaysia are the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus; Monash University Sunway Campus; Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak; Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia, and Curtin University, Sarawak.
Aside from the obvious benefits of lowered costs and ease of transportation, other perks of foreign branch campuses are the accessibility to a mature internal academic support system, a large network of alumni and postgraduates who continue to contribute to the university financially and academically, and access to a wider variety of facilities rather than only what is available at the local campus.
Each foreign branch has its own advantages that attract students to it, be it a programme unavailable elsewhere, an opportunity to study overseas for a semester or specific access to facilities and databases.
Fulfilling a niche: Obtaining a degree from a foreign branch university does not preclude fitting into the Malaysian professional scene upon graduation just because the programmes have an overseas basis. A fairly new addition to the foreign campuses on our shore, Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) nevertheless manages to set itself apart by being the first UK university to establish a fully-owned international branch campus for medicine in Malaysia. Currently offering a five-year Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) as their first programme, Newcastle intends to expand their repertoire with a bachelor’s in biomedical sciences and foundation programmes.
Other institutions may also give you an opportunity to spend a portion of your studies at the main campus or another branch campus in a different country for a significantly reduced price.
Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak, offers a variation of these choices. “Swinburne students in Kuching have the option of completing their studies locally or at our campuses in Melbourne. It will be a smooth transition, as the programmes and subjects offered at both campuses are the same,” says Professor Ken Heskin, Chief Executive and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne Sarawak. “A student exchange programme is also available, where students can spend up to two semesters in Melbourne or at one of Swinburne’s partner institutions in Europe while paying Swinburne Sarawak fees.”
Unique programmes: If recognition outside of Malaysia is what you’re looking for with your degree, the foreign branch campuses will be able to fulfil that requirement. Accreditation by the relevant industrial bodies is a pertinent aspect that potential students should certainly take into consideration. Swinburne’s popular engineering and business programmes, for example, are accredited by professional bodies such as the Institution of Engineers Australia, Board of Engineers Malaysia and CPA Australia. Their undergraduate computing programmes are accredited by the Australian Computer Society.
The content of programmes offered at branch campuses are often quite specialised, and the programmes offered themselves may not be available elsewhere.
The international influence is visible in the approach taken to teaching and learning, another aspect that some students may find attractive.
Monash University Sunway Campus, for example, offers students a broad range of disciplines to pursue, with the curriculum, facilities and academic strength to back it up. With choices ranging from arts and social sciences, business and engineering, to information technology, medicine, pharmacy, psychology and science, Monash is certainly a place to keep in mind when considering setting oneself apart in a traditional field.
Strong affiliations: Foreign branch campuses have the added advantage of collaborations and affiliations inherited from the main institution or forged themselves thanks to the existing reputation of their parent institution. Monash has campuses in Australia, Malaysia and South Africa, a research academy in India with the Indian Institute of Technology (IITB), and a new research-intensive partnership in Suchou, Jiangsu Province in China. There is also a Monash Universty Centre in Italy and a recently formed global alliance with Warwick University, UK.
A worthwhile option: Foreign branch campuses are not merely another extension of an institution in another country, but instead an institution that carries with it the experience and maturity of its parent campus while adapting to the demands of the local market.